You know, I get a little too caught up sometimes in dissecting books and trying to figure them out from the inside out, piece by piece. But it’s also important to look at them as a whole. Because even if all the pieces are perfect, that doesn’t mean the whole has turned out great.
It’s important, when studying stories, to look at the greats: the old greats, those whose works have stood the test of the ages and still appeals to readers. Because even if all the pieces of their story weren’t perfect, the whole has lasted hundreds or thousands of years.
You can go really old, if you want, to the days of Homer and Gilgamesh.
Or more recent, like Beowulf or Chaucer.
I’m just kidding. (Except not really, cause those books are great) John Steinbeck, Virginia Woolf, and James Barrie are totally fine!
When you read the story, ask yourself these questions:
1. Did the story satisfy me?
2. Was it predictable?
3. Did the beginning catch hold of me, or did it take time for me to get into it?
4. Was the middle boring? If so, why did I stick with it?
5. Was this a perfect story? (The answer is always no! No story is perfect) So then ask yourself, what could it have done better?
6. What was the basic premise?
7. What were the fundamental events?
8. Was the conclusion a natural one that was set up well?
These questions will help you to forget about sentence structure, the use of specific words, or even proper comma use. Forget about those things for a little while, and ask yourself – why is this a great story?
Now draft your own story based on the answers to your questions.
Here are my answers to all 8 questions, using Pride and Prejudice (the ever hackneyed, ever re-gurgitated example! Oh literature gods, praise be for Pride and Prejudice!) as an example.
You could write your own story based on these answers, without ever giving away to your audience that you copied Pride and Prejudice. So I challenge you to take the time today or this week to think of a story you love – a classic that has weathered the test of time – write out the basic events, and invent a story off of it for yourself!
Share your dissection of your favorite classic in the comments – I’d love to see it! 😀